Campbell: An unlikely hero

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Under-21 ladies hockey team knew they would break their World Cup qualification jink when defender Stephanie Campbell scored in the semi-finals against Namibia last week.

Campbell’s goal helped Zimbabwe win the match 2-1 and seal their place in the final and with it a place to represent Africa at the World Cup in Chile later this year.  

Zimbabwe had last played the showpiece 11 years ago ironically in Chile.

The team went onto lose the final 10-0 to neighbours South Africa but that did not dampen their spirits as they knew they will be going to South America in November. 

For Campbell though, the goal in the semi-finals was a moment to savour, because in the round robin stages she had scored an own goal against Namibia in a 3-1 rout.

“I scored the goal (own goal) and it was a bit upsetting in the beginning, but it didn’t drop my head. The support of the team helped a lot,” the Zimbabwe captain tells the Daily News from her South Africa base.

However, scoring against the same opponents in the right goal ended that anguish.

“It was a very unreal feeling, because I don’t usually score goals. So (it) was quite a shock,” Campbell recalls.

“I did envision it because there was this gap and Aimee Nativel passed the ball to me so I thought let me just attempt a back stick into the D because one of the post players will maybe push it in.

“But I somehow managed to get it in the bottom right corner. It was the greatest feeling and the celebration from the team was so motivating.

“Especially the fact that it put us up in the score by the goal; it was truly an amazing moment.”

The centre back took up hockey seriously in Form One at Chisipiti School and quickly made an impact after she made it into the Zimbabwe Under-14 hockey team and from then onwards never looked back.

Upon completion of her Advanced Level two years ago, Campbell moved to South Africa’s Stellenbosch University where she is studying towards a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Investment.

“I felt very privileged to have been asked to lead the Zimbabwe team. And the team together had such heart which made it so amazing to lead,” she said.

“The fact that we qualified showed how we didn’t once give up and we fought to the end. It’s amazing to have been able to lead such a lovely group of girls.”

Campbell says qualifying for the World Cup was a draining experience especially after the heavy defeat to Namibia in the earlier stages. 

“Against Tanzania and Botswana was a lot easier than Namibia and South Africa (SA). The SA and Namibia games were very hard and we definitely had to push through the games,” she says.

“Losing to Namibia was a downer however, in the first half of the game they managed to score three goals one being a deflection from me.

“We took a while to settle, but as we approached the second half it was a totally different game. We scored a goal and managed to keep it in our D most of the game. We played very well and kept our heads up.

“So the loss we weren’t upset with because we really did pick up our game in the second half and we knew if we played them again we could definitely do it considering how we held them.”

The team’s road to qualifying for Chile was also littered with hurdles. 

“I know a few girls couldn’t afford the tour at all, so financially it was hard to get girls there,” she says.

“However, we did do all the fundraising we could and there were a few sponsors who helped out which meant a lot to us.

“So looking forward the government could help a lot. The finances are the main concern as well as the kit.

“The Arundel turf to practice on has also been very expensive and it has had to come out of the girls’ pockets so we can play there. And I think with the government’s help that could be a bit easier with coatings.”